My ski instructor “Johnny the Man” skied backward down the hill, just in front of me. “Right toe down! Left toe down!” he shouted to me, coaching me through my turns. He was a salty haired 62-year-old man, with a 40-year ski background. I learned so much about a lot of things during our lesson, one of the most important things is that when I let go and let myself glide over the snow…. I will find my rhythm.
“You have the best stamina of anyone I have given lessons to over the years” he said to me “Including experienced skiers.” I have THAT going for me at least! There is something to be said for maintaining a strong level of fitness. It has allowed me to jump into these side endeavors pretty easily. I have the endurance and the strength, it’s the immediate skill that I lack. All these years spinning like a gerbil in my basement has paid off immensely.
I alternated between moments of absolute fluidity and moments where I would revert back to my snowplow (pizza) turns, twisting my body to face uphill. The moments I relaxed and allowed my hips to face the lodge and turned my gaze towards the bottom of the mountain …. that’s when I caught glimpses of magic.
But now I was recognizing it when the fear cropped up, from a ski accident 20 years ago that ended my love for the snow. It wasn’t bad, but it was bad enough to keep me off skis of any kind. A year ago I decided enough was enough. I bought skis (downhill and this year XC) and got myself some lessons. This year I am equipped with a season pass, and am ready to build upon what I have learned. I joined a ladies brigade and this past week I made my first ever trip to a ski resort in my hometown.
I grabbed a lesson there, which is honestly the most valuable investment you can make in these situations. Whether it’s swimming or skiing, an investment into the basics is crucial. Then it comes down to time and consistency.
Johnny the Man taught me about balance, about turns, about rhythm. He taught me about the history of skiing and the importance of learning the feel of snow and the value of trusting your intuition. “You now just need time on the skis.” were the most magical words that were said to me. I felt like I was over some sort of hump and ready to begin.
I stayed on that same hill for a few hours, to the point where the kid running the lift said “You should explore some of the other trails“. I told him I didn’t think I was ready, he told me he thought I was (Or he was tired of seeing me!!!). I grasped my trail map and took a deep breath.
Like anything, my skills are coming along. Like anything, it takes time. These past few years learning to speed skate, snowboard, and ski have been reminders of that. Expecting anything to come in one fell swoop is unrealistic.
As we travel through life it’s easy to build a wall around ourselves and hold tight in the theory of being comfortable being comfortable. Or being comfortable being stagnant. I had every reason to not venture out in the snow, and those reasons were good. But as comfortable as being comfortable is, I have an intense fear of becoming stagnant, that rides along with my intense fear of not learning.
A father and his very young daughter shared the hill with me. She couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. He had a strap system, one side attached to her left hip, the other attached to her right. As she glided in front of him he steered her. I followed them down the hill a few times (good lord I HOPE I wasn’t obvious). She was so relaxed as they traveled together. And man did she scream in delight.
I felt the same way as she did.
There is this feeling I get when I exit the chairlift and pause for a moment at the top. The view of snow covered everything in the distance….it’s more than beautiful. It’s a feeling. There is something so exhilarating about gliding down the mountain, at my beginner pace navigating my former snow plow turns. Figuring out the balance between my skis, weight shifting to my toes, developing and discovering that rhythm. It all rolls together and just floods me.
I am not sure why I am here, and I am totally sure why I am here. There are places I want to see, places I want to ski. Places I have only seen pictures of and I am tired of saying “one day…”. I won’t wait for that day, because you know what? I have to go out and FIND it. It’s not looking for me.
Daily, I thank my husband for the space he gives me, especially when it comes to these little journies I go on. He always tells me that it’s important for me to do these things. “It’s not like you are at a bar.” He says “Some women get facials, you explore, that’s a special part of you. Feed it.” For that, I am so incredibly grateful. He’s the one person in the world who just GETS ME. Without reservation. Without stipulation. He just 100 percent gets me.
When the guys are ready to venture out with me, I have their stuff ready.
Skiing, swimming, running, whatever your journey is, it takes time. Invest in learning the basics, because nothing strong is built on a weak foundation. When you work to build a foundation out of concrete, whatever you build on top of it, has the potential to last forever. That is not just true for sport. It’s true for family, for love, for parenting, for careers, and even for faith.